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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

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Karl Gerich

29 Articles

Karl Gerich's interest in playing-card production came to the fore while studying at Bath Academy of Art from 1975. Karl produced a unique range of hand-made playing cards during the period 1980-1998.

Karl Gerich No.22: “Rouennais”

Karl Gerich’s hand-made design No.22: “Rouennais”, Victoria P.C.C, Bath (UK), 1990.

Karl Gerich No.22: “Rouennais”

Merry Andrew

There are two Aces to each suit; one plain and the other with figures of a young woman and man, presumably Merry Andrew and his girl-friend.

Merry Andrew

Karl Gerich No.31: Triton

“Triton”, KG31, was published by Karl Gerich in 1989 trading as Victoria Playing Card Co with double-ended courts based on the XP17 or “Bongoût” pattern of Van Genechen and other Turnhout makers.

Karl Gerich No.31: Triton

Karl Gerich No.20: Rouennais A

The Aces are decorated with the pip in a central circle and two different figures at each end of the card. The courts are lavishly illustrated.

Karl Gerich No.20: Rouennais A

Cartes Turques

"Cartes Turques" was published in 1985. Intricate designs with a hint of orientalism, double borders and distinctive pips.

Cartes Turques

Lettische Patience

Karl enjoyed experimenting with design and production and this work was published in 1994 as a 32-card pack with one joker. The double-ended courts are, by Gerich's standards, plain with simple costume designs based on the designs of Arturs Duburs.

Lettische Patience

Deutche Karten

Karl Gerich's ‘Deutche Karten’ playing cards No.9, printed from copperplate etchings.

Deutche Karten

Karl Gerich No.1

The first entry in the catalogue, dating from c.1982, shows full-length figures with their symbols of office (mace, orb, halberd, sword, flower, etc.) after the early English style.

Karl Gerich No.1

No.14 Rouennais

As far as is known, ‘Rouennais’ has only ever been produced as a sheet of etched court cards and aces. The designs are based on the early playing cards produced in Rouen (France) which became the antecedents of the standard English pattern.

No.14 Rouennais

Ganesh

Karl's ‘Ganesh’ pack has the four Aces with the suit sign in a circle decorated with flowers and double-ended courts in Indian dress.

Ganesh

Trappola Française v.1

Inspired by Piatnik's ‘Trappola’ of c.1890, with double-ended courts, a Jester and decorated Aces, the cards are delicately etched and hand coloured so that versions exist with alternative colour schemes.

Trappola Française v.1

Cartes Turques Patience

Derived from “Cartes Turques” first made by Glanz, then later by van Genechten, Brepols & Piatnik. 3 double-ended dragon Aces and one Adam/Eve Ace with a coiled serpent.

Cartes Turques Patience

Patience Indien

Karl Gerich's “Patience Indien No.16”, published in 1991, is adapted from Grimaud's “Whist Indienne” (c.1900). The double-ended courts are dressed in Arab garb.

Patience Indien

Patience No.21

‘Patience No.21’ is a 52-card miniature deck with double-ended courts and a Joker holding a fan of cards.

Patience No.21

Karl Gerich No.26

Variations on the standard English pattern are one of Karl's favourite themes. He produced several versions and this is a magnificent example.

Karl Gerich No.26

Karl Gerich No.27

The courts are characters from Wagner's opera “The Ring of the Nibelungs”, beautifully etched and hand coloured. Each character is named in a cursive script along each side of the card.

Karl Gerich No.27

Karl Gerich No.29

“Victoria Playing Cards” designed by Georgina Harvey and produced by Karl Gerich, Bath (UK), 1988. Printed from copperplate etching; hand-coloured.

Karl Gerich No.29

Karl Gerich No.28

Double-ended courts based on standard English pattern but with variant colours; double-ended Joker plus Steve Davis card.

Karl Gerich No.28

Karl Gerich No.12

Karl Gerich's 12th deck is titled “Rheinland Playing Cards” and was published in 1991. lt is derived from Dondorf's Rhineland pattern, which was first published in the 1870s.

Karl Gerich No.12

Karl Gerich No.3

Four Elements is Karl's third attempt at manufacturing playing cards.

Karl Gerich No.3

Karl Gerich No.19

An unpublished design by Karl Gerich showing 12 court cards, a Joker and two additional cards produced from an etching. The number '19' can be seen inside the star on the title card.

Karl Gerich No.19

No.6 Austrian

This early Gerich work is an adaptation of the English pattern with continental stylisation. The double-ended designs are slightly different at each end and divided by a gold band.

No.6 Austrian

No.10 - Four Corners

Karl Gerich was a great admirer of playing cards produced by B. Dondorf and his tenth pack was inspired by Dondorf's “Luxus-Spielkarte Vier-Erdteile” (Four Continents Luxury Playing Cards) designed by Friedrich Karl Hausmann, 1870.

No.10 - Four Corners